[Image Credit: https://www.shoutmusicpublishing.com/harrison-wood%5D
By: Christi Given
I had the honor and privilege of interviewing Harrison Wood, the primary composer for Hillsong Film and TV and a drummer for Hillsong Worship, with whom Wood has toured around the world and been a part of album recordings.
He started playing drums at the age of two and was playing the piano by the age of five. Wood, a child prodigal, loves all things music and is innately creative. Growing up in the church, nothing was more natural than for him to serve, volunteer and join the local youth band and worship team. By age 15, he was playing drums consistently for youth and eventually becoming a strong part of the Hillsong team at Hillsong’s Hills Campus. His years of service ended up leading him to join Hillsong Worship in 2011, when “Cornerstone” released.
[Harrison Wood, the drummer of Hillsong Worship band, playing drums at a young age.]
Wood is not only an excellent drummer, but also is a composer, songwriter and a producer. He works hand in hand with the creative team for Hillsong Film and TV as well as an independent composer globally for various projects, such as his current focus on an indie documentary. I was delighted to interview Harrison one-on-one. What I discovered was Harrison’s depth and that he really does believe in the verse Matthew 7:24-27, where Jesus is the rock and warns us to not build our lives on sinking sand. “If there’s one thing that 2020 has taught us, it’s that we can’t go through the motions, church is not a production. We need something more.” I think you will find value in our Q & A, and we hope it will inspire, encourage, and impart some wisdom to you whether you are a creative, a worshipper or that you merely need to know you are not alone.
[Image Credit: https://hillsong.com/contributor/harrison-wood ]
THE INTERVIEW Q & A WITH HARRISON WOOD [Drummer of Hillsong Worship]
CG: Tell me about your ideology of staying healthy in order to be more creative. I know we’re living in perilous and unpredictable times, and I know that many musicians tend to burn the candles at both ends either with late night sessions or just not sure because they’re in quarantine or their schedules and priorities have shifted. Tell me about your advice on how to keep doing what you love while being balanced
CG: Tell me about your advice on how to keep doing what you love while being balanced.
HW: It’s true. I’m sure there are many people that can say they have indeed burned the candle at both ends at least once in their life, regardless of what industry they’re in. It has probably taken me years to be able to see things from a birds-eye view in regard to the part I play in the music industry. There have been many times where I have wanted to shut things down altogether and move on, and I would have done it if it weren’t for wise counsel.
“But the reality for me was that I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings. I wasn’t aware of what I was depriving my body of.”
Firstly, if you just took a look at the room I was working in, (studio rooms) you’d see that there weren’t any windows, no natural light streaming in. I didn’t even know what time of day it was sometimes. Secondly, because of the amount of time spent “in the zone” finishing a project or a draft, I didn’t realize I hadn’t spoken to anyone else in that time; I hadn’t had any human connection. Thirdly, because I inevitably wasn’t allowing myself to take a solid break, I wasn’t moving or getting any fresh oxygen.
These basic human needs are imperative to normal mental and physical function, and the wild thing is that these things are so easily taken for granted by a lot of people. I had two-year increments where I wanted to call it quits, but somehow, I stayed, but I learnt more about myself because of it. There was a time when touring and traveling had slowed down a bit, so when my studio work wasn’t being broken up with other movement, it only exacerbated the bad days.
All this to say, balance is so imperative to stay healthy. It sounds simple, but we don’t treat it like it is. I’ve met many who are at the top of their vocation who have wanted to quit, and the only thing keeping them there was the fact that they weren’t sure what else they would do. It wasn’t until they either moved their desk to a large window, spent time with more people, and looked after themselves holistically that it re-energized their motivation.
CG: You mentioned scripture about sinking sand and building your life on the rock. How has 2020 shown this to you personally?
HW: It goes without saying that 2020 was not the year we asked for. But as it reached a close, people realized that there were many valuable lessons to learn about themselves as individuals and on a corporate level. Churches had to learn the ebbs and flows of remaining a safe place people could stay committed to while navigating various technologies. It opened up many doors for further outreach and connection with a much larger number of people. For Hillsong, our teams worked tirelessly to create an online space that still felt like home for its church family and for anybody that wanted to engage with their faith in that season. It’s safe to say that people learnt new and valuable things in the process, whether that was a physical skill or a revelation of how to format a service that helped people lean in.
Circling back, 2020 was a magnifying glass on many things. It was a time when I think God was saying, “Hey, there’s this thing over here that I think you need to deal with.” And we hadn’t even given it any thought previously because we were too occupied with work and travel and other things that we now no longer had the luxury of doing. We were forced to look closer and weed things out: out of our thinking, our habits, our attitudes. We needed to reverse engineer some things in order to see that those things were no longer going to cut it long term. In regard to my own life, of course there were things I had to deal with.
It made me step back in my lounge room, or wherever I was, and just see lights, large stages, one-liners, and phrases mentioned over years of church culture that have since lost their meaning. As hard as I tried to lean in, I was barely holding on. And as a result, my faith was in the same boat. But from this experience arose a very poignant question: where was my anchor? Was my experience of church determining how I navigated my faith?
“It was soon very clear that all I really wanted was my relationship with God and nothing else. Only He knew what I needed. Only He could get to the places in me that needed true watering. From that place, everything else could then be rebuilt. I could now benefit from everything else that housed itself physically within the four walls of the church. So, in a way, my spiritual walk needed also to be reverse engineered, so I could see what condition my foundations were in; so, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was building upon a Rock and not on the sand.“
CG: Many would say that you’ve “arrived,” being with such a famous worship band and well-known church. What other goals or dreams do you carry, and what do you plan on doing with them?
HW: It’s always an interesting way of thinking for me, because I’ve never experienced this part of my life as having “made it,” as the team I tour and serve with are quite literally friends and church family that I have grown up with. It’s only ever been from a place of service and my personal responsibility to excellence that I’ve approached the tours and albums I’ve gotten to be part of. Aside from the fact that God had placed and graced me in that space for those seasons.
Parallel to my roles as a musician, composing/writing/producing has always been a passion of mine, and I feel they go hand-in-hand with my experience as a player. Over time, I’ve worked on various projects for Film, TV, and other media, and my love for the craft of film music has been with me since my teenage days. I am currently working on a feature documentary with a great team of people in LA. I’m not sure how much I can say just yet, so I’ll leave it there for now.
CG: How do you maintain your mental health with long editing and producing hours, and what advice would you give other producers and musicians?
HW: I knew a few people that worked out of dark quiet rooms for hours. Some worked on big Hollywood films, others were engineers in smaller studios. I had multiple conversations with them around things like gut health, maintaining your health, and changing your environment. The main thing is just to see the bigger picture. Don’t forsake your well-being for a few extra hours of productivity. If you know your room doesn’t have windows, schedule time in your day to step outside to recharge. If you know you won’t be talking to anyone for most of the day, organize lunch with them, or step outside to call someone. Whatever it may be, recognize that your health is a greater asset than your creativity, because if you look after one, the other can keep turning over the way it should. Balance.
“Don’t forsake your well-being for a few extra hours of productivity. If you know your room doesn’t have windows, schedule time in your day to step outside to recharge.”
-Harrison Wood (Hillsong Drummer)
CG: How do you think the church has changed since the COVID shutdowns, and what can we do better?
HW: I think a lot of people have realized that things need to change. Ways of reaching and helping others may need to change, even how we look after our own and keep ourselves refreshed. It’s been a time of re-evaluation.
CG: How has God slowed you down personally for more of that intimate time hearing the Holy Spirit’s voice?
HW: I think He’s given me more opportunities for quiet spaces and allowed me to decide what I need to do with them. I think it’s here that I realize I need to be intentional about refreshing and edifying myself. God has a way of providing the space for you to lean in or even to learn more about where your priorities are.
CG: Amen, so good. What advice would you give other musicians on how to get your music in different catalogues? How do you license your music for films, or do you have any advice? Also, where can we find your personal music?
HW: I would say, be showing your friends your music. Get an understanding of what your music says to people. Show people that you’re only acquaintances with, allow honesty, and don’t take criticism to heart, only learn from it. Failure shouldn’t ever lessen someone’s abilities; it should only push them forward.
Start by releasing your own music. Get comfortable with the idea. Release some more. You will learn things about your own sound in the process. Then show more people. As for me. I had publishers that work on licensing my music. And some of my music is also available to license on Music Bed.
CG: What is the documentary you’re working on, and where can we see it?
HW: It’s a feature length project that looks at an area of the health care system in the U.S. in regard to a particular type of disease and how it affects the lives of many different people.
CG: Any final thoughts on expanding your creativity, your vision, and dreams?
HW: Just don’t stop moving. Setbacks are all part of the process. It’s not worth being stagnant unless you know God has you in a season of rest. If you want progress, then take small steps every day, keeping the bigger picture in mind. Thank God for it. Watch what unfolds.
You can find Harrison Wood on Instagram at @harrisonjwood or via his website harrisonjwood.com
CG: Thank YOU Harrison. It was a pleasure learning more about you, listening to your wisdom and advice on taking care of one’s health as a creative, and getting to know your core heart. You are awesome, and we appreciate your time and for opening up and sharing.
For more information go to: https://hillsong.com/worship/